Bryson is a brilliant wit and an astonishingly popular writer whose wry, accurate details of the people and goings on around him have earned him a notable position among the current reign of literary greats. His special knack is describing –- to our great joy -– the nuances and peculiarities of the various places around the world. Bryson fans can attest that when reading his books, they are miraculously transported to the places that he describes so astutely, in that oh, so Bryson fashion. His talent lies as a travel writer. Therefore, it’s odd that he decided to take on what can best be described as a science project, analyzing –- in layman’s terms -– what has already been discussed at length by scientists and the science textbooks that we all read in school.
Ultimately, Bryson wanted to know the answers to all these questions; hence his 544-page manuscript which painstakingly details atoms, molecules, microbes, comets, dinosaurs, DNA, how the Earth evolved, and more interestingly, Darwin’s theory and the evolution of man. Unfortunately, we have to read through hundreds of pages before we finally arrive at the most interesting part.
Bryson writes that for the most part of our history, “we were in the same ancestral line as chimpanzees. Then about seven million years ago something major happened. A group of new beings emerged from the tropical forests of Africa and began to move about on the open savanna.” These folks were our ancestors, and one generation evolved into the next, gradually ridding themselves of “ape-like” features and developing more “human-like capabilities such as hunting, using fire, building tools, and so on. However, as Bryson states, it’s important to keep in mind that regardless of these so-called improvements, we are still “98.4 percent genetically indistinguishable from the chimpanzee.” So the moral of the story is: Darwin was right.